This morning I saw a man on the map of the Navy Memorial. Even before I saw the items pinned to his cap, I assumed he was a veteran.
I work a stones throw away from the Navy Memorial. I see people stand on the world map, find D.C., draw and imaginary “X” on the ground, look at those they’re with and say
You are here.
Sometimes, they find where they left from and fly a line from there to where they stand. (It’s nice to know there are people from Idaho). Sometimes, the more spirited people break into song
…. top of the world….. looking…… down on creation….. and the only explanation I can FIND….
People do that thing they do. People run up the stairs while humming the tune of “Rocky” at the Philadelphia Art Museum, people repeat
Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament
while driving around the circle in London—or any circle for that matter. People do these things. People find the place in which they stand at the Navy War Memorial while a dark statue of a sailor stands there, bag at feet, and salutes us all. Constantly.
But not this man. He was alone and slightly unpredictable. He stood three feet from the statue and took a picture of the sailor with a throw away. He looked up for second and then down at the world. He looked toward the flags at Pennsylvania and then toward the fountain to watch one, wading duck. And I couldn’t help but compare the two.
(Low-ball glasses and two ice cubes. T.V. set with static and a bent antenna. No cable. The smell of dust, moisture and age. Dark wood. Old, non-ticking clocks, yellow stains settling onto off-white walls and bathroom fixtures. [Why is he here alone at 8 a.m.?] I check for a ring. There isn’t one. Perhaps the pins clinging to his baseball hat write his history).
What is it about some people and how they sweep me out of my own life for a few minutes? They don’t speak to me, they don’t even know I’m there most of the time. But somehow, whether it’s by way of an unconscious smell or just some quick visual flicker, there are people out there who I want to collect and serve mashed potatoes to (or maybe pancakes). I want to listen to whatever story is pinned to their head and I want them to use as much gravy (or syrup) as they wish. This man looked sadly content, just exiting or coming to or grasping something I will probably only understand much later on in life (if ever). And I’m sure he’s much wiser than I am, and I’m sure he knows better about how things really appear at night.
Perhaps it’s from a hormonal down. Perhaps the air decided I was feeling too elated today, that I began to forget about sadness and it needed to remind me. But something about this man made me feel sad today. And I hope he’s not alone on weekends and holidays.